Abortion ban veto sustained
Senate override bid fails
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Republican-led Senate failed Friday to override President Clinton's veto of a measure banning a type of late-term abortion. The 64-36 vote in favor of an override left opponents three votes short of the two-thirds majority needed.
"Let the baby live," pleaded the measure's main Senate sponsor, Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum, as he urged his colleagues to back an override.
Four Republicans joined 32 Democrats to sustain the veto, while 13 Democrats and 51 Republicans voted for the override.
The Republican-majority House voted 296-132 in July to overturn the veto but the Senate's inability to do the same means Clinton's veto stands -- at least until a new Congress convenes in January.
In May 1997, senators passed the bill by the same 64-36 margin as Friday's vote.
Had the measure become law, it would have banned a medical procedure -- described by its critics as a "partial birth abortion" -- except when needed to save the pregnant woman's life. The procedure involves the partial, feet-first delivery of a fetus and the draining of its skull contents,
Abortion rights advocates, including Clinton, say the bill is unconstitutional because it makes no exceptions for when a woman's health is jeopardized by continuing a pregnancy -- a provision that they say is required by the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
Emotional pre-vote debate
Friday's vote followed emotional debate over why Congress should take the rare step of enacting legislation over a president's objections.
"If the president would have signed this bill, he would have been putting a woman's health and her life at risk," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, who led opposition to the override. "So I think he did the right thing."
"If we sustain this president's veto," Boxer said, "there is no one woman in American who has to have this procedure. It is a personal decision. It is a decision based on health."
Santorum said he didn't understand that logic. "Why is it healthier for the mother to insert a pair of scissors into the baby's skull, fracturing and shattering that skull inside the mother, causing potential harm to that mother by doing so?" he asked.
"There can be no rationale for destroying this little baby by executing this little baby at that point in time when it is almost born," Santorum said.
He said reports that the procedure is rarely used were "a lie."
Republicans have been trying to enact the ban since taking control of Congress in 1995.
Friday, September 18, 1998
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